This week's guest reached out to me a few months ago after she came across the podcast while driving across the country in search of relief from her chronic post-concussion symptoms (PCS). Emily Allard is a pro softball player who is still dealing with the effects of PCS while trying to earn a spot on Canada’s Olympic team. Part of her message can be found below:
My name is Emily Allard and I am a professional softball player out of Chicago. I grew up in the Bay Area and went to school at Northwestern. I had four surgeries in college, two more in the pros, but about 18 months ago my life was turned upside down when I sustained my second concussion. I haven't been the same since.
I stumbled upon your podcast during my 32 hour drive from California to Chicago. I was leaving the facility I was rehabbing at and there was something about driving cross-country -- alone -- that brought comfort and timeliness in your podcast. Not only did it kill more than a few hours of my time in the middle of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, etc... it left me wanting more and hoping for the chance to share my own story. From the few I selected to listen to, it sounded like everyone had already made their decision to stop playing or come to terms with what had happened to them. I am still very much in the thick of those emotions and have NOT decided what I want to do yet (I'm currently pursuing an Olympic spot on Team Canada pending clearance) ... I think there's a very unique opportunity here to share the back-and-forth emotions I feel everyday wondering what my next move is...
I also felt there was a unique perspective to be told through Emily's experience that could help other athletes facing the same dilemma. Below are other topics we discuss throughout this episode:
The story of Emily's first concussion sustained while pitching back in 2008 and the recovery from that injury.
How a broken thumb programmed “toughness” in her.
Why there will always be certain situations where concussion protocols don’t seem to exist (unfortunately).
The story of Emily's second concussion that has left her with chronic PCS symptoms and the extreme isolation and frustration that has ensued.
Discussion of the 6 surgeries (non-concussion related) Emily has overcome in her athletic career.
The differences in concussion management and treatment between 2008 and 2016.
Specific symptoms Emily still struggles with to this day – vision (depth perception), eyes tracking side to side, elevated heart rate, headaches, cognitive (stuttering, forgetfulness, dropping things).
"Everyone is facing their own silent battles."
Thoughts feelings and emotions surrounding her symptoms.
Why doing more isn’t going to make it better, which is the opposite of training in sports.
What happened when Emily tried to play through her symptoms.
Why pro softball players might want to consider unionizing.
How most of Emily's injuries stemmed from overuse and not listening to her body.
The frustrations with lack of a specific protocol in concussion recovery.
Pushing through injuries that lead to other injuries.
How basketball kept Emily healthy.
The role of the slapper in softball and the creativity that role requires.
The value of seeing sports psychologist, especially while injured.
Emily's passions outside of softball such as yoga and paddle boarding.
Weighing the risks and benefits of returning back to softball in pursuit of a life-long dream.
Why Emily plays for the kids.
Advice to athletes going through what she is going through.